Motivations in romantic relationships: a regulatory focus perspective



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Texas A&M University


The present research tested whether and how regulatory focus as a motivational variable influences the ways in which people appraise, process, and react to events in romantic relationships. Regulatory focus theory distinguishes between (1) a prevention focus, which emphasizes the fulfillment of security needs, duties and obligations, and is associated with heightened sensitivity to aversive outcomes, and (2) a promotion focus, which emphasizes the fulfillment of nurturance needs, accomplishments and aspirations, and is associated with heightened sensitivity to rewarding outcomes. Based on regulatory focus theory, it was assumed that promotion and prevention focused people would appraise, react to, and process interpersonal events involving a romantic partner in different ways. In addition, it was expected that the distinct ways of experiencing such events are reflected in differences in relationship quality. Three studies using college student samples were conducted to test these notions. Evidence was found that individual differences in chronic prevention focus affect the ways in which people react to aversive events in relationships. No support was obtained for regulatory focus theory??s predictions regarding prevention focus processes in association with rewarding outcomes, and predictions related to the promotion focus system were also not supported. As expected, chronic promotion focus was related to higher relationship quality, and chronic prevention focus was associated with lower relationship quality. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.